Friday Reads: "Winter of the World" by Ken Follett

Today's Friday Reads is going to be short and sweet, for two reasons. One, my husband and I are heading out of town this weekend to visit family, and I have a LOT to do before heading to Penn Station. And two, I am not remotely done with this book. Why is that, when I usually read a book or two or even three a week? Well, this one is... 940 pages long. Seriously. It's a doorstop:

winter of the world

Winter of the World is the second book in Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, which is basically a massive historical epic tracing world events through the 20th century. Book one, Fall of Giants, which I read about a year ago, followed the events leading up to, during, and after World War I, as lived by characters in England, the US, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere in the world. This second book starts at the end of the Great Depression and is moving rapidly toward World War II. Where I am now, Hitler has come to power and Socialists and Fascists are clashing all around the world.

This book is populated with the next generation of the families we met in the first book. After following the twists and turns of the first generation's lives, it's interesting to see their kids as teenagers about to make their parents' mistakes all over again. For instance, the generation that fought in World War I is trying to tell their kids not to fight Fascism with violence, but are the kids listening? (Spoiler alert: Not really.) They're about to hurtle headlong into World War II, and I can't wait to see how everything plays out. (For the individual characters—obviously I know how World War II plays out!) 

I got this book for Christmas from my parents, after having gotten the last one for Christmas 2011, but it took me five months to pick it up just because it's so big. This isn't light subway reading! But after last week's foray into historical fiction with Starstruck, I was ready to dive in. And 200 pages in, I'm remembering why I enjoyed the first one. Ken Follett is a master of showing some of the grandest periods in history through the eyes of a group of individuals, making those epic and powerful and devastating events feel intimate. (I've also read his Pillars of the Earth, set in the Middle Ages and following the building of a cathedral.) In these 20th century books, he juggles a global cast of characters and manages to show how the changing political scene the world over affects people of various classes and cultures on a personal level. 

So—characters you grow to care about (or despise!), along with an in-depth refresher course on 20th Century World History? Count me in. If you're a nerd like me, you'll probably like Winter of the World, too (but read Fall of Giants first!). 

And there's suspense involved: Will I finish 700 more dense pages in time to write about something else next Friday? I do have two train rides ahead of me this weekend, which will help... 

See? Like I said up top. Short and sweet. Until next week...